By normalizing relations, Washington is not asking Minsk to choose between East and West and ready to discuss further easing of sanctions against Belarus.
United States Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale made the statement after the meeting with Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko in Minsk on Tuesday, 17 September.
In his opening speech, David Hale described the meeting as “a historic juncture in U.S. – Belarus relations” and expressed the country’s readiness to exchange ambassadors.
— U.S. Embassy Minsk (@USEmbBy) September 17, 2019
The diplomat also stressed that by these actions, they don’t ask Belarus to favour West or East, respects its desire to chart its own course and contribute to peace and stability in the region.
The United States also welcomes Belarus’ increased cooperation on issues of non-proliferation, border security, economic cooperation, and information sharing on matters of shared security.
He particularly noted that there are still aspects of the Belarus Democracy Act with which the Belarusian government needs to contend, so that “we can discuss further easing of sanctions.”
“The upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections represent an opportunity to address the spirit of the concerns outlined in the Belarus Democracy Act,” he added.
“We’ve discussed a broad spectrum of bilateral relations, including the most sensitive ones – political ones, human rights, and economic dialogue matters. I have to say that today’s talks took place in an atmosphere of absolute openness and trust,” Belarusian Minister of Foreign Affairs Vladimir Makei said.
The minister also pointed out that it is the first time such a high-ranking official from the U.S. Department of State has come to Belarus in the last 25 years.
“We have a feeling that the mutual representation of the two countries in Washington and Minsk at the level of charge d’affaires ad interim does not live up to today’s reality. A higher level of representation could more effectively realize the opportunities that open up before our countries,” he added.
Where do sanctions come from?
Recall that the sanctions against Alexander Lukashenko and a number of officials and their relatives had been introduced on 16 June 2006, by George W. Bush.
Restrictive measures were imposed after the presidential elections in Belarus, which the U.S. and the EU recognized as undemocratic. At present, there are ten people on the blacklist.
Sanctions block accounts of these individuals in the U.S. banks, prohibit entry to the states, having property there, as well as prohibit American companies from having any business with these persons.
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Since 2006, the U.S. has also introduced sanctions against Belarusian enterprises. In 2015, the sanctions were suspended, then this decision was extended several times.
The suspension of sanctions was caused by the release of political prisoners, peaceful elections in 2015, and the entering of the first opposition MPs to parliament in 2016.
This year US President Donald Trump extended sanctions against some Belarusian citizens, including Alexander Lukashenko, and members of the country’s government until 16 June 2020.